A new documentary will expose the epidemic of “Puppycide,” the widespread practice of police fatally shooting dogs, often with no justification and always with impunity.
“Of Dogs & Men” Director Michael Ozias told The Daily Caller News Foundation Monday the tragic story of how the Tennessee Smoak family sparked his interest in the issue. The Smoak family was pulled over the night of Jan. 1, 2003 because they were mistakenly suspected of carjacking.
The family in the car obeyed police orders to get out of the vehicle, but when their dog Patton jumped out too, police fatally shot the pit bull in the head with a shotgun. It had not attacked the officer and the family was not involved in the carjacking.
“I see it replayed in my mind a lot,” Brandon Smoak told ABC news after the incident. “And it just goes through my mind all day long, and sometimes in my dreams.”
Cases like these are what the film plans to expose, and the trailer is now online.
“They hunted him down from behind and killed him,” one man says in the documentary’s trailer.
“Oh please don’t let my baby die!” One woman cries on her knees.
The trailer throws down a haunting statistic, claiming 10,000 dogs a year are killed by law enforcement.
Ozias said he hasn’t finished the documentary but has interviewed several dog owners who had their pet killed by police. Money from Kickstarter and the Animal Legal Defense Fund helped fund the project.
“It’s not hyperbole to say people feel their dogs are more family members than pets,” Ozias told TheDCNF. “I feel that way about my own and couldn’t help thinking about them during every tearful story we were told.”
Police often shoot dogs who are barking at them, and police regulations make it virtually impossible for an officer to face retribution. Exact numbers surrounding dog shootings by police are difficult to determine since police departments rarely collect the data.
“For a long time a dog would get shot and all the officer would have to say is that the dog was vicious and that they feared for their life,” Ozias told TheDCNF. “But now we’re seeing cracks in the impunity veneer.”
Ozias, who is working with producer Patrick Reasonover on the documentary, said he has hope for this issue.
“We’re seeing progress in states like Colorado and, recently, Texas with statewide legislation meant to specifically address this issue,” Ozias told TheDCNF. “The problem currently is that states, counties, and cities rarely take the issue seriously until a horrible incident sparks outrage and brings these shootings a lot of local attention. Our hope is that the documentary can help solve that problem by shining a light on it at a national level so more dogs don’t have to be shot in order to see progress.”
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